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c omic c r eator s deta il their storytelling a nd a rtistic pr oc esses

Rarely is the process, unique to each artist, examined and documented. Working Methods puts the minds of comic artists under the microscope, highlighting the intricacies of the creative process, step-by-step. Three short scripts are each in-

terpreted in different ways by professional comic artists to illustrate the varied ways in which they “see” and “solve” the prob-

lem of successfully interpreting and transferring a script into visual comic form. The creative and technical choices of artists mark schultz, tim levins, jim mahfood, scott hampton, kelsey shannon, chris brunner, sean murphy, and pat quinn are documented as they work, allowing comic fans, artists, instructors, and students to enter a world rarely explored. Illustrated examples document the artists’ processes, and interviews clarify their individual approaches to storytelling and layout choices. In Working Methods, the exercise may be simple, but the results are profoundly complex.



rofessional comic artists interpret scripts every day as they successfully transform the written word into the visual form.

j ohn low e

TwoMorrows Publishing, Raleigh, NC $21.95 in the US ISBN 978-1-893905-73-3

WORKING METHODS Comic Creators Detail Their Storytelling and Artistic Processes

b y j ohn low e

Intro:Working Methods


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working methods

contents 06








scott hampton


tim levins


Fight Night jim mahfood


pat quinn


sean murphy


Time Troubling mark schultz


chris brunner


kelsey shannon



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working methods

paddy Script by scott hampton Artists scott hampton tim levins

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Script: Paddy

page 1 Note: This segment is seen as a flashback with captions for dialogue until we cut to present-day. Panel 1: Black panel with a small point of light. This is a tunnel opening. Voice: What happened then, Paddy? Once you were in the car. Paddy: He said she’d have to be dispatched. That was the word he used, “dispatched”— Panel 2: We now see the tunnel opening clearly. Vague hint of the city. Paddy: Like a telegram full of bad news. Panel 3: POV int. car. We exit the tunnel and see that we are on a curving two-way street along the edge of Central Park in New York City. Paddy: He gives me the low-down, how she’s the prosecution’s star witness, blah, blah. You know the drill. 2: Hands me a photo. Panel 4: Our first good look at the car and its occupants: A goon is driving. Another goon is riding shotgun and keeping an eye out. Yet another goon (Paddy) is looking at a snapshot. The fourth guy is the Big Boss: classier, older than the others. The time period is the 1930s or ‘40s. Classic gangster period. Paddy: And I know her. Panel 5: The snapshot held in Paddy’s hand. Voice: Well? Paddy: Not really. To say hello to. She lived on the street. Panel 6: The car pulls to the curb outside a subway entrance. Paddy: She was a neighbor.


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paddy script

page 2 Paddy makes his way down into the subway and waits for the woman to show up. It’s rush hour; lots of people are getting off work. He sees the woman coming onto the platform from a stairway. The woman waits among the crowd at the edge of the platform for the train. Paddy moves into position behind her. Voice: So, what did you do? The train is entering the station. He pushes her. Paddy: My job.

page 3 Panel 1: Many years later. Paddy is much older but recognizable, leaning against a large oak desk in a nicely appointed office. Young (mid-twenties) goons are clustered around him. Another older guy stands by the door. Older guy: All right boys, let’s break it up. It’s still a workin’ day. Panel 2: Paddy stands and takes a drag on a cigarette. The others start to leave the room. Older guy singles one out. Older guy: You’ve got the Keller delivery, right? Goon: Right, no sweat. Panel 3: Older guy speaks to Paddy from the door as the others finish exiting. Paddy is behind the desk, looking out the window. Older guy: Okay if I take off? I promised Marsha I’d give her a ride to LaGuardia. Paddy: Sure. Older guy: I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Panel 4: Ext. Guys are leaving big, nice house and getting into cars. Some are laughing or smiling. Paddy watches from an upper-story window. Panel 5: Back in the office. Paddy is alone as he takes another drag on a cigarette while pulling a snapshot from a drawer. Panel 6: Paddy sits behind the desk and contemplates the snapshot.


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Scott Hampton

Known for his artistic diversity, Scott Hampton has illustrated such iconic properties as Batman, Sandman, Black Widow, Hellraiser, and Star Trek. He has also worked on creator-owned projects such as The Upturned Stone. Scott began his career by following in the footsteps of his brother, fellow comic book creator Bo Hampton. Both Scott and Bo studied under the great Will Eisner in 1976. Scott's first professional comics work was the six-page story Godfather Death, released by Epic Illustrated in 1982. His work on Silverheels from Pacific Comics in 1983 is regarded as the first continuing painted comic. Recent works include Spookhouse, released in 2004 by IDW Publishing, featuring sequential adaptations of his favorite ghost stories; and Batman: Gotham County Line, from DC Comics in 2005. Scott Hampton is also pursuing a passion outside of comics: filmmaking. He completed his first short independent film, The Tontine, in April, 2006. He lives with his wife Letitia in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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scott hampton

the script

something that would allow certain decision-making opportunities on the part of the artist. I wanted it to have a great deal

John Lowe: When you wrote the script for Paddy, did

of flexibility in that way. For example, an artist could turn the

you write it for other artists or for yourself?

woman into a little fourteen year-old girl. The back-story could be interpreted differently. I hope other artists will take it in dif-

Scott Hampton: Both for myself and as an exercise for

ferent directions than I did. Something that seems quite specific

other artists.

can actually have a lot of room for play.

JL: It’s a full script. Do you always work that way? SH: That’s the way I usually do them.


JL: I know some artist/writers will use pictures as well as words in their scripts, but you prefer to write all the

JL: What are the first steps you take when approaching

words first.

this or any story?

SH: Absolutely. I really don’t confer with the visual part of my

SH: I take the script and block off what I think are natural

brain when I do it, because I’m mostly thinking about telling

tiers. I break it down in that way, from page to page. Then I

a good story. The challenge later on is to make the story work

start doing the roughs. I’ll do up a rough that’s a quarter of a


piece of 8.5" x 11" typing paper, so I get four on a page.

JL: Do you approach everything you write like this?

JL: Do you have a little template that you make for yourself to do those?

SH: As long as I’m writing for myself, I do. If I’m writing for someone else, I have to think about the visuals at the same time.

SH: Yes. From that point, I’ll just get the roughs where I like

That’s what I did with my Legends of the Dark Knight job.

them. Sometimes I’ll do multiple roughs, depending on the

I was supposed to write that for Kent Williams but he took on

complexity. Then I transfer the best one over—usually with the

another project, so I ended up doing the art on it myself.

Artograph, because it will enlarge. And boom: I start working.

JL: We should mention that you originally slated Paddy as

JL: When you’re working out your storytelling, do you

a four-page script, with two pages in between as a way to

stick to basic shapes?

help build the suspense. For our purposes in this book,

SH: Not really. I draw most of the stuff. It’ll be fairly rough—

we decided to condense the script to three pages.

it won’t be super-tight—but it’ll be there. In between the four

Also, you initially planned to do it all in a six-panel grid,

or five lines will be the real line. But no, they’re not just shapes,

but then you changed it to accommodate the plot. Those

unless of course there’s some sort of dense background like a

bits that were condensed into page two are especially in-

bunch of trees.

teresting because they contain no dialogue, which leaves

JL: Right, a generic background. But if you showed the

a lot of room for interpretation by different artists. It’s

roughs to an editor or someone else, they’d definitely be

really up to each artist to decide how to show pacing and

able to read them?

story there.

SH: Oh, yeah.

SH: Exactly. I thought that would be really effective as an exercise. It seems very specific and you might think everyone

JL: And they’re done very small with pencil, right?

would approach it in exactly the same way. Not so.

SH: Right.

When I wrote this script, I was very conscious of trying to make


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working methods

Working small allows Scott to develop storytelling and compositional choices quickly. It also prevents him from wasting too much time and effort on a drawing that may ultimately be eliminated.


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working scott hampton methods

JL: How do you go about placing the word balloons? Do you leave space for dialogue placement in the thumbnails? SH: I don’t leave space; I put the captions and balloons right into my thumbnails and I try not to let anything important get up in that area.

research and references JL: With a story like this, do you do a great deal of research prior to drawing your thumbnails, or do you research after your thumbnails in order to get the finishing touches on your drawing? SH: It varies a little bit. Every once in a while, I lay it all out and then search out my reference. But I usually look at the script and get an idea in my head of roughly what I’m looking for. Then I go through books I have, find my reference, and cull it. I may find just what I’m looking for, or something that’s approximate. I often make a note to myself that says, “Put in a castle from this book, page 62, here.” I won’t even draw that on the rough. JL: You’ll just note the reference so you can draw it later. SH: Right. JL: Is that how you approached this story? There’s a very specific time period here, so the cars and the background were all researched and referenced. Am I correct? SH: You bet. JL: What referencing tools do you use? Probably use the Internet, right? SH: No, I never use the Internet and I’ll tell you why. As far as I’m concerned, 72 dpi jpegs aren’t clear enough. If I’m going to use reference, it’s usually not for a person. I’ll either shoot my

One of Scott’s favorite reference sources for 1930’s environmental photog-

own photo reference on a person or I’ll just make it up. But en-

raphy is the Dover Publications book New York in the Thirties by Berenice

vironments such as architecture and cars often need to be fairly

Abbott. Panel one on page two of Scott’s story is a perfect example of using

exact. I want to be clear, so I go to print.

reference photos to create a believable, detail-rich environment.


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Scott often sketches right on top of his reference images to approximate the settings and poses he plans to draw.

JL: Let’s talk about this story specifically. You worked

that correct?

with exteriors from the 1940s. Did you use the library? Is

SH: Exactly.

that your reference tool of choice?

JL: Did you actually set up the interior for that panel in

SH: That’s often where I go. I also have a number of books of

your own house?

my own. I took out my Dover books with photographs by Berenice Abbott, who did all these photographs in the thirties

SH: That’s right. I use my own house if it will work. I have a

and forties. I use her photos as the basis for my backgrounds

staircase that allowed me to get some angles from above fairly

and cars all the time.

easily. I used my dining room table as the desk for the main character. I just made it a little smaller in my drawing. And I

JL: Is Abbott’s work in one Dover book or a series?

had my wife, Letitia, shoot me standing around in overcoats in

SH: It’s a series of books, but then she’s also been collected in one

a number of different postures so I could be the henchmen.

big book, with larger photographs.

JL: You were all the henchmen?

JL: But where there’s an interior, like the one on page

SH: All the henchmen and the main character. I think once or

three, you’ve said you often set up your own reference. Is


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scott hampton

twice I might have asked Letitia to fill in as a person. JL: I remember that when you began your comic career, you would never use reference. You thought it was cheating in some ways. SH: Essentially, yeah. JL: But now you realize that, for someone who can draw, reference is almost essential to getting natural poses, rather than the generic, repeatable poses that the brain calls up from memory. SH: That’s exactly right. First, I think it’s important to be able

Scott uses an Artograph to transfer his small pencil sketch onto two-ply

to draw most anything from your head. You don’t want to use

Bristol board (Strathmore 500 series).

reference as a crutch, but as something that gives you greater verisimilitude and variety. You’re right; we do fall into patterns when we draw from our heads. As much as I love the work of artists like Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan and Mark Schultz, sometimes I see that the choices they’re making are the same ones they normally make. And I find that in myself. I decided I had to give myself permission to use the reference, both as a refining tool and as a time-saver, because I have to work fast! I thought to myself, “Okay, I’ll use these reference tools to make my process more fun.” And oddly enough, it gives me something to do besides just sit down to a blank piece of paper and draw, which is sometimes painful. So reference speeds me up.

Next, he refines the pencils 60–75 percent, saving the rest of the detail for the inking stage.

Reference can add that extra element of realism that we sometimes want. But the key is never to be a slave to the reference. Say my background is a castle. I might change the lighting on it or I might not, but I’m not going to break my back to make it different if it’s more or less what I need.

character design JL: Did you design the characters prior to going to the page, or did you just have a good idea in your head of what they were going to look like? Using a Hunt 102 crow quill, he inks the figures and backgrounds in FW

SH: I had an idea.

Acrylic ink. Sometimes he clips the ends of cheap brushes to square them off.


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JL: Right. This is just a three-page story. If it were larger—say, a graphic novel—would you design out characters in advance? SH: Sadly, no. [John laughs.] That’s why they generally start to look better after a couple of pages. [Laughter.] I basically have to do it that way. I’m running at full speed from the very beginning. JL: So it’s very organic. You don’t do turnarounds or any of that stuff? SH: No. I just don’t have the time, and often I don’t have the patience. I have a sense of what I want, so I’ll go in and start doing it.

going to the board JL: After you have your rough pencils, I assume you take them to the Artograph and project them onto board. What type of surface do you prefer to work on? SH: Rough. It tends to be two-ply Bristol board because that’s what we get from the company. But if I want to get some better effects with the paint, I’ll sometimes pull out my own four- or five-ply paper. JL: Do you still use Strathmore Bristol? SH: You bet. I use the Strathmore 500 series, not 400. The 400 is bad stuff. JL: When you’re projecting those drawings down and sketching them in, do you still work loosely with pencil on your board? SH: When I’m putting down the work from the Artograph, I’m just laying it out. I refine it once I turn off the machine. JL: So you sort out your placement first. Then you finish up your drawing. Scott uses the public library and his personal book collection to seek out

SH: Right.

reference materials for environmental details like cars, buildings and signs.

JL: With this project, was the choice of medium solely budgetary, or was it dependent on the story?


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scott hampton

The final panel is completed on a piece of two-ply Bristol board. Scott will scan this drawing and use Adobe Photoshop to place it in his page layout.

SH: I tend to get hired for painted jobs, so I have to paint. But

Joey Cavalieri hooked me up with, they specifically asked me

if I can choose, I base it on the story. I’m doing a bunch of sto-

if I could do it in black and white. Why? Because of these

ries for this solo book right now. I’m making them up as I go,

Paddy pages!

and after I’ve written each one, I ask myself, “All right, how

JL: Will you work the Batman story in a similar fash-

do I approach this? Would it be better if it were monochrome,

ion? You used a lot of ink wash with Paddy. You

full-color, or a mix of both?” If it’s my choice, I choose based on

warmed and cooled some things. Will do that for the

what represents the story best.

Batman story?

JL: So, when a company hires you to freelance, it’s gen-

SH: I don’t think so. What I will do, though, is a good bit of

erally because you’re known for painting.

dry brush. I’ve seen Robert Fawcett’s work. Dry brush works.

SH: Right. But for this Batman story with Steve Niles that


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working methods

Many of the steps in Scott’s process can be seen on this piece of board.


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working scott hampton methods

To increase the tension and urgency of a moment, Scott cuts between points of view. Although he doesn’t show all the action, Scott uses isolated images to imply that Paddy pushes the woman in front of a passing train.


SH: Often, I do my linework with a Hunt 102 crow quill. But if I’m going for something that’s more in the Fawcett vein, like a few panels in Paddy, then I’ll do almost all of it with brush.

JL: How much will you refine the drawings in pencil before you go to ink?

When it comes to brushes, I use a really nice brush like a Se-

SH: I’d say maybe 70 percent. I absolutely have to have some

ries Seven No. 2 or No.3 Winsor Newton. But I’m also find-

things tight—like eyeballs. Crossed and improperly placed eyes

ing it effective to clip the ends off of a little cheap brush like a

will screw up a face. The eyes are the focus of almost any panel,

Yasutomo Silverado. I clip them ever so slightly, just to make

so I have to be exact. But with everything else, there’s room to

them a little bit more squared-off. They’re great. They’re

just kind of make it up as I go or play with it.

acrylic brushes; black with white tips. Fawcett once said that when other painters are about to throw their brushes away,

JL: What specific tools do you use to ink with?

that’s when he can really get the most out of those brushes. I


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Scott Hampton’s Paddy


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The final pages rest on Jim’s drawing table in his studio. The plastic tray attached to the left side of the table allows Jim to keep all of his drawing and inking tools within arm’s reach.

JL: You do the letters before you put the balloons around


them, right? JL: You have an interesting lettering style. After you put

JM: Yes. I do lettering, and then I edit the balloon to make it

your word balloons in, you rough in the placement in the

fit around that letter.

pencil stage. Then, I guess, you do the lettering. Do you

JL: Your lettering is very unique, yet it’s still very legible.

do your lettering before you ink the figures?

Has your penmanship always been good?

JM: My lettering style is so half-assed. Most people are shocked when they hear how I do it. Sean Konot laughs at me, but he

JM: No, that’s something I had to work at. Back in art school,

loves my lettering work. When I’m in penciling mode, I rough

when I was lettering my own comics, Evan Dorkin was like,

in the balloon based on how much space I think I’ll need. Then

“Your lettering sucks. You need to work on that. It’s inconsis-

I do the lettering in the pen-drawing stage. I don’t pencil out

tent.” It’s a process that evolved over the years. And with this

the words. I just write straight in pen.

latest Grrl Scouts series for Image, I really worked hard to make the lettering part of the art. The lettering and the bal-

JL: Are you serious?

loons are as important as the drawing in the panel. I want them to be integral to the design of the page. That’s something I

JM: I don’t rule it out; I just use my eye.


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pat quinn

Pat draws several potential character designs on the backs of old e-mails before settling on his final characters.


cific accommodations—the same way you would if you were trying to work Batman’s cape into a shot, or make space for a big figure like the Hulk.

JL: You did your thumbnails before you did the character designs, right?

JL: So you’re just working out the story with very generic

PQ: Right. If I don’t have a character design in mind by the

shapes. And then you go back and adjust accordingly once

layout phase, I can just drop stick figures into the compositions

you have your characters.

and see where things are going. Since these designs came about

PQ: Yeah. This stage is like setting up the cinematography and

while I was working on the thumbnails, I did make some spe-

choreography. Once I have all my visual notes and panel doo-


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going to the board JL: Once the thumbnails are done, you enlarge them on the photocopier, right? PQ: To save a little cash, I used to scan the pages and blow them up to 8.5" x 11" using the scanner and printer, then take the enlarged versions of the thumbnails over to the copy place and blow them up to 11" x 17". Now I have a 13" x 19" printer at home and I do this all inhouse. This method helps a lot when doing a “tight” or “enAfter enlarging the thumbnails, Pat transfers the page layout to an

hanced” pencil gig, where the publisher doesn’t hire an inker.

11" x 17" piece of two-ply Bristol board using a blue pencil and a lightbox.

They just scan the pencils, which means the pencils have to be very tight. Stray marks from under-drawings might not be acceptable. JL: Okay. But if an artist wanted to, he or she could just take these to the copy place and blow them up twice. That’s what you used to do before you scanned everything in, right? PQ: Yeah, I guess I did that with the Green Lantern stuff. JL: Do you remember the percentage you used to enlarge it? PQ: No, that’s the biggest pain. Now I have templates in Pho-

He draws the panel in detail with a blue pencil,

toshop. When I use a photocopier to enlarge the drawing to

then indicates shadow placement.

11" x 17", I may blow it up at three different sizes, which also allows me to play with panel size a little bit. That’s also the point where I double-check the dialogue. I’ll verify, “Okay, I can make this panel bigger, because the panels below don’t have as much dialogue. I don’t have to worry about crowding the space.” If I work digitally in Photoshop I can make all the changes there. Photoshop is also great for duplicating panels and flipping compositions. JL: When you draw the thumbnails, you leave room for the dialogue and work out the compositions. Then, when you blow up the copies, you refine them even more, right? PQ: Right. Especially when I get to the finished version, because then I re-read the dialogue to consider gesture and facial

Pat uses a 0.3 mechanical pencil with a 2h lead to complete his drawings

expression. But I have to admit my biggest weakness—hold the

on the Bristol board. A 2h is less likely to smudge than a softer lead.


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time troubling Script by mark kneece Artists mark schultz chris brunner kelsey shannon

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Script: Time Troubling page 1 Panel 1: A large spaceship is getting pummeled in the vicinity of earth. You choose the source of the catastrophe: meteor shower, photon torpedoes fired from an enemy ship, etc. Half the ship is getting blown to hell and back. From inside the ship: Aaghhh! Panel 2: Cut to what’s left of the interior of the blasted ship. Wreckage is everywhere. A man and a woman stand over a stunned and injured alien (or robot—you choose). The woman is reaching out to help the creature. The man is pulling something from his belt. Woman: Are you all right? Panel 3: Close-up of the man now examining a high-tech looking gadget. We need to establish a small teleportation device in this panel. Man: We can warp to another dimensional time zone if I can program this before— Woman: No time! Panel 4: The three of them run toward an escape pod. Both are helping the small alien (robot) along. Woman: Get to the escape pod now! Panel 5: Cut to an egg-shaped pod beginning a fiery descent into the atmosphere as the ship explodes in the background. Panel 6: Over the shoulder shot of an unidentifiable creature (Neanderthal) watching the pod landing hard in a savannalike grassy area.

page 2 Panel 1: The trio now stands outside in a rough semi-circle. The pod door is open behind them with smoke coming out— the pod is done-for. The alien /robot looks better, though charred and obviously still injured. The man is still fooling with the time warp device. The grass to one side of them is waist high. Alien/robot: Aghhh… my head… Woman: Hey—for the edge of the galaxy—this isn’t so bad. Man: Alright! I think I got it set up, but I can’t be s… Panel 2: The alien /robot is hit with a spear (or rock) sfx: Fwatch! (or another appropriate sound)


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Panel 3: The couple turns in shock to witness the alien /robot collapse. Other spears and rocks are hitting the ground around them. Alien/Robot: … huuuungh… sfx: thunk! thunk! tang! Panel 4: A crowd of Neanderthals has risen from the tall grass and is advancing towards them. Several are carrying spears, handmade knives, or rocks. Off panel: Oh God! Panel 5: The group of space travelers huddle together. They are overpowered and surrounded by cavemen. The biggest and hairiest Neanderthal is sniffing at the woman who, still holding the alien /robot, cringes in disgust. The man has the teleportation device in his hand. Panel 6: The man covertly presses the button on the time warp device. Man (thought balloon): Please work… Panel 7: Sound effect panel sfx: Tzzzip.

page 3 Panel 1: The group of space travelers in the same position, but looking around in amazement. sfx: Hoooooonk! Panel 2: Pull back to reveal that they are standing in the middle of a busy street within the massive city of Chicago (you choose the decade: 1920’s–1960’s) towering around them. A cab is bearing down on them. Trucks, traffic, etc. hem them in. Driver: Move it, you stupid jerks! sfx: Hoooooonk! Hoooonk! Panel 3: A cab is about to clobber them. The passengers look horrified. The spaceman has the teleportation device in his hand. Cab Driver: Get out of the road! Man 1 (thought): One warp left! Panel 4: Sound effect panel sfx: Skreeeech! sfx: Ceerasssh! Panel 5: The cab driver, his cab smashed into a telephone pole behind him (maybe a chain-reaction pileup behind him, if possible), has his hands gesticulating wildly, trying to explain to an obviously skeptical policeman writing out a citation. Cab Driver: Ghosts! It was ghosts! Policeman: Uh huh… Panel 6: You, the artist, choose an environment in which the space travelers are placed. One of them says: Hmm… well, it could be worse…


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Mark Schultz

Mark Schultz has been cartooning and illustrating for over twenty years. He is best known as the creator of the award-winning speculative adventure comic book, Xenozoic Tales. Mark is also widely recognized for co-creating and co-writing SubHuman, an underwater adventure series for Dark Horse Comics, and for scripting a five-year span of DC Comics’ Superman, Man of Steel. He has scripted and/or drawn many other popular fictional icons, including Flash Gordon, Tarzan, The Spirit, Star Wars, Aliens and Predator. As an illustrator, Mark depicted the adventures of Robert E. Howard’s Conan of Cimmeria for the highly regarded Wandering Star/Del Rey editions of Howard’s works. He also illustrated the autobiography of the famed painter of prehistoric life, Charles R. Knight. Schultz has been awarded five Harvey Awards, two Eisners, an Inkpot, a Spectrum, and three Haxturs (the last from the Salon Internacional del Comic del Princpado de Asturias). He is currently working on a cautionary storybook tentatively titled Storms at Sea, as well as writing the Prince Valiant comic strip for the Sunday comics. He lives with his wife/letterer, Denise, and their two cats in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

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the script

MS: I could tell right away. It wasn’t so much that there were problems with the storytelling, it was that Mark had divided

John Lowe: When you receive a script, what are the first

the story information into so many panels. One of the pages

steps you take?

had seven panels on it. I could see very easy ways to consolidate

Mark Schultz: I’ve gotta tell you, this is a pretty unique sit-

that information into fewer panels and eliminate crowding on

uation for me. Up to this point I’ve always worked from my

the page.

own script. I’ve never actually penciled someone else’s script.

I suggested the changes to Mark and asked for his input. He

The first job I had in the industry was inking over Val Semeiks’

was very cool about it. He agreed that the changes wouldn’t ef-

pencils for a back-up story in Savage Sword of Conan—Val’s

fect what he was trying to communicate. It’s definitely wise to

first story. At the same time I got that job, Kitchen Sink ac-

make sure any changes work for the writer because he may have

cepted my Xenozoic proposal and offered to give me my own

a certain rhythm in mind for the page.

book. Of course I accepted, and for years I only did artwork

JL: Let’s talk about those changes.

based on my own writing.

MS: Well, since I haven’t drawn continuity in at least six years,

After that, I started writing scripts for other properties. I was

I wanted to make the compositions and the panel breakdowns

a scriptwriter dealing with pencilers. I may have penciled a spot

much more formal than usual. I wanted to get back to grid

panel or two, but this Time Troubling script is the first actual

breakdowns and let the information in the panel tell the story,

storytelling I’ve ever done based on a script I didn’t write.

rather than using dynamic panels as a storytelling element.

As a scriptwriter, I want to hear from the artist so we can dis-

The older I get, the more conservative I become, and I’m start-

cuss what’s working for him and what isn’t. If we collaborate

ing to see dynamic panels as extraneous to the story. Looking

from the beginning, we can produce a strip that works for both

back, I wonder why the hell I did Xenozoic Tales the way I

of us. When I got Mark’s script, I called him because I had a

did. It’s confusing. I should have kept it simple. Mark’s script

few ideas and questions for him.

offered the opportunity to rethink my choices.

JL: Did your questions jump out at you right away or did

I really wanted to keep the basic six-panel grid, so I asked Mark

they emerge after you started the thumbnails?

Mark first reads through the script, then calls the writer to get a sense of his intent and to discuss the possibility of making a few minor variations. A writer himself, Mark believes the results are better when writers and artists work together.


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JL: So if you get it completely right on tracing paper, do

pod comes down. But you decided to alter that quite dras-

you just lightbox the tracing paper?

tically on the final page.

MS: Absolutely. I keep it as simple as possible.

MS: Right. That one gave me some trouble.

JL: When you working at your board, you use a little

JL: What didn’t you like about the initial composition?

hand-held mirror. Is that to check proportions and view

What made you decide to change it? And what kind of

the face in a different way?

process did you go through to come up with the new image?

MS: Right. That’s a major reason. I also use it if I’m draw-

MS: The image I had bored me. It looked good at the size of a

ing expressions. I look at my own face. I set up the light and

thumbnail, but when I started to play around with it upsized,

the mirror look at my face or hands to check the lighting.

the relationship between the size of the Neanderthal and the

But mostly I use it to look at a drawing in reverse, to make

size of the falling ship was not quite right. The pod has to be big

sure the eyes aren’t sliding off the side of the face and the nose

enough to be recognizable, but you want to feel that it’s differ-

isn’t crooked.

ent from the big spaceship from which it detached. The script also called for a hint that these cavemen are hiding in the grass

JL: You use the mirror quite a bit, right?

and watching the ship come down. I had to solve the problem of

MS: Absolutely. I’m always checking myself with that. It’s one

how to show grass tall enough to hide an anthropoid figure, but

of my major tools.

still imply something crouching in the middle of that grass and looking up at the falling ship. I played around with that a lot, and I just couldn’t make it work. Eventually, I compromised by showing a group of cavemen in the tall grass, not so much hid-


ing as watching at a distance. JL: Sometimes you change your composition when you

JL: I think the size relationship works better in the final

move from the tracing paper to the board. For example,

version. It’s more effective to show a group of people than

you sketched the last panel on page one in such a way that

to show just two. Also, you’re able to introduce the

the Neanderthals are crowding the panel while the rocket

spears, which are not only a great design element; they

Working double-sized on 12" x 18" Bristol board, Mark uses a mechani-

When Mark is happy with an image, he transfers it to the final board.

cal pencil with H lead to finish one panel at a time.

He often covers previously drawn panels with tracing paper to avoid smudging them with his hand.


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Mark keeps a small, hand-held mirror on hand to make sure his drawings look correct in reverse. This is a good way to check the proportions and placement of facial features.

also prepare us for the events on page two. The alien gets

put the ship a little farther in the distance, moving the

whacked with the spear, instead of the tomahawk-type

travelers away from it.

weapon in the earlier version.

MS: This panel got to do a lot of the storytelling without much

MS: That’s a good point, too. But to be honest with you, I doubt

overt explanation. It was important, to keep the reader from

I thought it out that far. It’s one of those subconscious things. I

thinking, “Why don’t they just crawl back into their spaceship

didn’t think about it, but you’re right: It is better storytelling

and fly away if there’s danger?”

to introduce those spears.

Mark also specified in the script that this is actually not a ship but

JL: Right; they link up the action. We know exactly who’s

an escape pod. It’s very clear that the pod can’t be re-launched. I

hitting who on page two.

hope I pulled that off by showing a lot of smoke pouring out of it. The smoke also made a great compositional element.

MS: Right.

JL: It works, and that sweep of smoke provides a nice

JL: Moving to page two, in panel one; I see that you’ve


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From thumbnails to final drawings: a. Mark makes the figures more prominent and establishes a distance between them and the ship. b. He reduces the alien to a hand in the foreground to simplify the panel. c. He zooms in on the action to heighten the tension of the scene and focus on the characters’ expressions.


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Mark Schultz’ Time Troubling


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photoshop JL: Once you got these pencils finished, you scanned them into the computer, is that correct? CB: I scanned them in at 300 dpi and cleaned them up a bit. JL: Once the pencils were scanned in, then you opened them in Photoshop and enlarged the images to the standard size. CB: Yeah, I have a file of a template in Photoshop that’s the exact dimensions of the page, so I can print it out at any size

To drop out the lighter pencil work that he doesn’t need, Chris adjusts

and keep the proportions the same.

the light, middle, and dark values of the drawing using the “Levels” tool under the “Image/Adjustments” menu in Photoshop.

JL: You told me that you had a sequence set up to change all the lines to non-photo blue. Do you remember that? CB: Yeah, there are a lot of different ways to do it in Photoshop. I tried to get the image as dark as possible and toggle the contrast to eliminate as much gray as I could. Then I put a layer on top of that and applied non-photo blue with the “paintbucket” tool. On my screen, the C is 15 and I think the Y is 2. Then I changed the layer mode from “normal" to “hard” light. That shift turns all the black into non-photo blue. JL: So you print that out on Bristol board? CB: Yes.

For inking purposes, the linework will be printed out as non-photo blue. On a layer above the drawing, Chris fills the canvas with 15 percent cyan and 2 per-

JL: What printer do you use?

cent yellow. He then changes the layer mode to “Hard Light.”

CB: It’s an HP 9800 Deskjet. You might need a printer with a rear-feed to handle the thick stock paper and size.

inking JL: Now you start inking? CB: Yeah. The inking stage is really just a process of making it pretty. The inking is all improvisation. All the important information is already there, and it’s time to have fun and draw. It’s like a doodle. The linework is now ready to be printed onto Bristol board using a

JL: When you did these pages, your inking tool of choice

wide-format color printer. From there, the inking stage begins.


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kelsey shannon


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Kelsey usually constructs his environments by indicating a horizon line, then gesturing a grid freehand on the page. But to accurately represent this highly recognizable bridge and bas-relief, he uses a ruler and perspective points.

KS: The first storytelling I ever did was in a book called Tem-

them on the page in Photoshop?

plate no. 5. It was a backup that I did for Head Press. It’s

KS: Yes. Sometimes I’ll draw the background and then every

funny because Bob Muncie, the publisher of Head Press, previ-

character separately. I’ve often been in the situation where the

ously owned a comic book store in Dallas called Kaboom Comics.

backgrounds are perfect, and all the characters are perfect, but

I used to go in there and enter his art contest and I won it a cou-

the last guy on the panel just won’t get right. I end up with all

ple of times. Then years later, after he sold the place and started

this smudging. That’s why I’ve developed the habit of doing

his own publishing company, I ended up working with him and

everything separately.

he didn’t even remember me from his store.

JL: In panel four on the third page where you have those cars, you drew out all the mechanical stuff on one page, and then overlaid the characters. Did you use a red pen-

composing the panels

cil here to distinguish between the two? JL: So you scan your drawings and sketches and arrange

KS: Oh, no. It was all the same blue pencil. I changed the color


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only see the stairwell because of the way you used the color to light the rooms. When I first looked at it in the pencils, I thought she was just running and he was trying to help her. Then I got a little lost in the pencils of panel three because I wondered how she got over there. But it all became very clear once I saw the colors: she’s running down toward that little pod you indicated in panel two. KS: Oh, yeah. Color in comics is almost like music in a film. It supplies subtext, but it also helps bring the reader from one place to the next by changing the lighting. Artists don’t take advantage of lighting as much they could. JL: You show the characters landing at the end of page one. On page two, you use warm colors like red-orange for the planet, which makes the space travelers seem cool in comparison. You’ve clearly established the man in the foreground, and the glow coming off that little time machine really draws the eye to it. KS: You may have noticed that the light is red on the machine until it actually works. Then it turns green. JL: Yes, that’s wonderful. Also on page two, you reduced the seven panels to six by removing a sound effect panel. KS: Yeah. It seems more efficient to put the sound effect in the panel, you know? Also, I’m not a big fan of sound effects. I try to make all the art look like sound effects so the sounds register in the brain. JL: So readers can add their own. KS: Yeah. I don’t mind sound effects if they’re done by a really good letterer like Ken Bruzenak, though. A letterer like that can do whatever he wants and it still looks cool. JL: All right. KS: I changed the second page a lot. In panel five, the script had a Neanderthal sniff the woman. To me, that took the focus away Kelsey uses color and lighting as storytelling tools to lead the eye in the direction of the action.

from the whole. Instead of focusing on what the Neanderthals do, I wanted to keep the action moving as fast as possible. I didn’t even put Neanderthals in that last panel, because for me the story is: They arrive, a danger presents itself, they huddle to-


working methods



COMIC CREATORS DETAIL THEIR STORYTELLING & CREATIVE PROCESSES Art professor JOHN LOWE puts the minds of comic artists under the microscope, highlighting the intricacies of the creative process step-by-step. For this book, three short scripts are each interpreted in different ways by professional comic artists to illustrate the varied ways in which they “see” and “solve” the problem of making a script succeed in comic form. It documents the creative and technical choices MARK SCHULTZ, TIM LEVINS, JIM MAHFOOD, SCOTT HAMPTON, KELSEY SHANNON, CHRIS BRUNNER, SEAN MURPHY, and PAT QUINN make as they tell a story, allowing comic fans, artists, instructors, and students into a world rarely explored. Hundreds of illustrated examples document the artists’ processes, and interviews clarify their individual approaches regarding storytelling and layout choices. The exercise may be simple, but the results are profoundly complex! (176-page trade paperback with COLOR) SOLD OUT (Digital Edition) $6.95


Working Methods  

Unlike any other “how-to” book, Working Methods puts the minds of comic artists under the microscope, highlighting the intricacies of the cr...

Working Methods  

Unlike any other “how-to” book, Working Methods puts the minds of comic artists under the microscope, highlighting the intricacies of the cr...